In a major step toward providing better service and a fully modernized electric grid, ComEd broke ground in May on a new facility that will serve as a training center for the next generation of utility workers. Construction – to be completed in December 2012 –comes as part of ComEd’s broader, $2.6 billion effort to renew the region’s electricity infrastructure.

“In our push to modernize the electric grid, we will need our employees to have the right tools and training,” said Anne Pramaggiore, ComEd’s president and CEO. “The Rockford center will provide them with those resources while furthering ComEd’s commitment to safety, innovation, and operational excellence.”

“Not only will this facility enable us to train the next generation of utility workers, it will provide good jobs and opportunities for the people of this community,” Pramaggiore added.

Rockford Mayor Lawrence Morrissey, State Representative Charles Jefferson, IBEW Local Chapter 15 Vice President Terry McGoldrick and Northwestern Illinois Building Trades Council President Brad Long joined Pramaggiore at the groundbreaking ceremony held at the construction site on the grounds of ComEd’s Rockford headquarters on Energy Avenue.

“We applaud ComEd for choosing to build a major training facility right here in Rockford,” Mayor Morrissey said. “By choosing Rockford, ComEd will bring construction jobs here while guaranteeing our city will be at the forefront of the utility’s modernization efforts.”

The facility is specially designed as an education and training center for ComEd’s workforce and will feature 34,000 square feet of classroom and indoor training space, an 85,000-square-foot outside training yard, a 100-seat auditorium and a customer education area. The facility also will include computer kiosks, break areas, indoor climbing areas, splicing bays for underground cable and manhole training areas.

The employees trained at the Rockford facility and a similar facility to be built in Chicago will support and implement ComEd’s grid modernization efforts. ComEd is investing $2.6 billion to strengthen the existing power grid and add new, digital Smart Grid and smart meter technology that will transform the delivery of electricity to homes and businesses. By year end, ComEd will have replaced or refurbished more than 450 miles of underground residential distribution (URD) cable and replaced or reinforced approximately 2,500 wood poles to enhance performance and reduce service interruptions throughout the northern Illinois region. Additionally, the company will have installed approximately 450 distribution automation (DA) devices. DA devices automatically detect and reroute power around potential problems on the system, significantly reducing the duration of interruptions. This technology minimizes the number of customers affected by an outage by isolating the problem area and making automatic, real-time adjustments to the electric grid.

“We are committed to building a stronger, more dependable power grid – one with fewer and shorter outages,” Pramaggiore said. “A critical component is improving and expanding training in all areas as we build our work force of the future and prepare the next generation of utility workers to maintain a more modern grid.”

The training facility is another tangible demonstration of ComEd’s commitment to service and improved reliability for its customers – and to putting Illinoisans back to work and modernizing the grid to support the 21st century economy. The investment comes as a direct result of the historic Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (EIMA), enacted by the Illinois Legislature last fall.